This handbook is designed by editor Brian Magee CM to help the reader prepare the readings for a wedding, so that their message can be conveyed in a way that is meaningful for the couple and the congregation. Each reading is prefaced by a short commentary, and there is a helpful pronunciation guide where necessary.
95 pp. Veritas 1985,1995. To purchase this book online, go to www.veritas.ie .
Old Testament Readings (& Psalm)
New Testament Readings
The role of the reader
To be asked to read at the Wedding Mass is indeed a compliment and a privilege. You are seen as a friend and helper of the couple being married and their families. It presumes that you have the ability to read, to speak clearly and to speak out.
But there is more to the task than that. The couple have chosen the readings for this Mass. These texts speak to them of the meaning of their love and marriage, so it is important for them that they be read well. The congregation at the Mass will be interested in what is being said about this marriage and also in what is being said about their own marriages and lives.
The texts will be familiar enough, but new light will always be thrown on them by the circumstances in which they are heard. The preacher will try to bring out the comfort and encouragement, the strengthening and warning they contain. It is up to the reader to make sure that the readings are heard and understood. Preparation is needed, and not just for pronunciation and grammar. The preparation must be a prayerful one, searching out what the Holy Spirit, who is alive and active in the inspired Word of God, is saying. It means finding some background information on what the reading is saying, and that can come from books or from someone who is knowledgeable about Scripture. Ideally, the message should, through study and prayer, become part of the reader, through whom the dead words in the book become alive for the congregation.
The texts that are read
The Wedding Mass readings have been chosen not only because they have something human and beautiful to say about love and marriage, but mainly because they express the Christian understanding of marriage. A Christian wedding is a celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Words and actions come together to express the deepest meanings of marriage.
In the first part of the Mass, before the vows are made, we listen to the Word of God. Scripture readings are taken from the Mass Lectionary, and in this book we deal only with the section especially prepared for weddings. We include five extra readings added in recent years. These are placed after the ones in the original Lectionary. For a clearer understanding we have used the New Revised Standard Version and New Jerusalem translations. The church lectionary may have a different version.
The choice of texts will be made with the couple. Some thought and prayer should go into the particular choices in order to appreciate their meaning. For this reason the Gospel passages are also included here so that the couple and the priest may choose an appropriate one, and perhaps talk about what will be said in the homily. The reader’s task will be to ensure that the couple’s understanding of these texts is brought out for the congregation.
Sometimes the couples have favourite passages from poets and philosophers that speak to them about their love. These can never be a substitute for the Word of God but may be used as commentaries, as meditations, or as illustrations in the homily.
How to prepare
The texts are generally quite short. This is a help if you are nervous, but it does mean that you have to make sure the message gets across to people who are actively listening. First, make sure that you have no problems with pronunciation. Read the text out loud to get the feel of the sentences. Remember that you will tend to read too fast, so learn to pause and control your speed. See what the main point of the reading is. The small sentence in italics at the beginning is the main sentence of the reading. This small sentence is only a help and should not be read out loud. It may help to know where the passage comes from in the Bible, what the original circumstances of the message were. Further help may come from knowing which aspect of Christian marriage the text speaks about, and how the priest will use it in his homily. Best of all, if you can come to like the reading and feel that it speaks to you, then you can enjoy telling others about it. That is what preaching the Gospel is about. For we know that when the scriptures are read in the church, God himself speaks to his people. The reader shares in the work of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. The Wedding Mass can be one of those occasions when people are especially attentive. The reader should be ready to fulfil their expectations.
A word about the Responsorial Psalm. Normally this will be sung, but if it is to be read, remember that it is a poem and has a musical rhythm. An introduction is supplied here for each psalm to help people to understand what the prayer is about. The reader should help the congregation to remember the psalm by repeating the antiphon or response with them, but should never cue them in by saying: ‘Response!’
Prayer of the Faithful
Sometimes, as well as having to read them, readers are involved in the preparation of intentions for the Prayer of the Faithful. This will help their reading preparation. Here are some points to remember. These are general intentions: we pray for the whole Church, for the whole world that is in need of salvation, for the local community and its needs, and for the couple, who have just been married. Normally there are about five intentions, and on the occasion of a wedding they will centre on the idea of marriage, e.g. asking help for all married couples, for the protection of this marriage, for others preparing for marriage, for deceased relatives of the couple or for those who are absent on this happy occasion.
It is important to remember that the reader is talking to the congregation, suggesting intentions that the congregation is to pray for. The reader is not praying but is asking others to pray. So the usual form will begin with ‘Let us pray for’ or, ‘Let us ask the Lord in prayer for’, or some such expression. It is the gathered congregation which petitions with and through Christ. These intentions should not be rushed – allow people time to think about them and pray. If the prayer response of the congregation can be sung so much the better. The example and help of Mary can be included in the expression of intentions, but the saying of the Hail Mary has no place in the Prayer of the Faithful. An example of a complete set of intentions is given in the Wedding Ritual and People’s Book (Veritas).
Points to Remember
Old Testament Readings
This reading speaks to us about God’s love and care for man and woman in their relationship with each other. Human love and sexuality are seen as good and blessed by God. And it reminds us that God does not create and then forget his creation, but that his love and protection will be with this couple all their married life. The three poetic lines in the middle of the passage will need special attention from the reader.
A reading from the book of Genesis 1:26-28.31(NRSV)
Male and female he created them.
God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
This is the word of the Lord.
A reading from the book of Genesis 1:26-28.31(NJB)
Male and female he created them.
God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.’
God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, and all the living creatures that move on earth.’
God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good.
This is the word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm 1 Ps 32:12.18.20-22. R v.5
If the Responsorial Psalm is not sung the following introduction may be used:
God’s love and care are seen in all the works of creation, and in human love. We can indeed respond to the Psalm saying:
R. The Lord fills the earth with his love.
1. They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
the people he has chosen as his own.
The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love. R.
2. Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
The Lord is our help and our shield.
In him do our hearts find joy.
We trust in his holy name. R.
3. May your love be upon us, O Lord,
as we place all our hope in you. R.